It is natural to be nervous and curious about new things, asking oneself several questions like; what will l find, how will the animals treat me etc. These may all arise once you land at Kigali International Airport with the hopes of meeting the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.
Despite Rwanda’s past experience in the 1994 genocide out break where several lives were claimed, Rwanda is recorded as the fastest economic growing country among the East African countries and it’s the cleanest African country so far due to the introduction of the “National Cleaning Day” for every month and is highly respected and followed by all its nationalities.
The remains of the 1994 genocide, however cannot be ignored for good , as looking back to this, gives the country more reason to fight against the occurrence of such a situation in their homeland ever again. And this is seen through the establishment and existence of several memorial sites in the memory of the genocide deaths; these display the remains of some victims of this outbreak between the Tutsi and Hutu and these are skulls, exhumed dead bodies, murder weapons that were used and many others. Among the memorial grounds where they can be viewed, we have; the Kigali Memorial Genocide, Murambi Memorial Genocide Site a few to mention.
With all this, it is no doubt that Rwanda has played a big role in reinforcing itself to peace full living without any wars. Currently is natives too struggle with the government in the providence of peace in the country.
It takes you about 2-3 hours driving from Kigali (the country’s capital city) to Volcanoes National Park in Northern Rwanda – home to the amazing mountain gorillas. Here expect to enjoy a clear view of several natural attractions of Rwanda like its rolling hills, large tea and coffee plantations, as well as banana plantations, and also enjoy the birds whistle out through the country air during your drive to the volcanoes National Park.
On arriving at the park, you can choose to stay at one of the safari lodges (we stayed at the luxurious Virunga lodge) found within the park and is one of Rwanda’s well known places with such good services. Here you will be treated to first class and self-contained rooms with clear beautiful decorations and linen, have a shower, nap and later on enjoy an African prepared meal from the restaurant enjoying clear views of the Volcanoes Natural forest- such an amazing experience with the natural breeze sweeping over your face.
Don’t forget to sleep early so as to be ready by 5:00am for your great gorilla trekking adventure. In the morning, you will be treated to your breakfast before heading to the Volcanoes National Park quarters ( at Kinigi) where you will be briefed on the dos and don’ts while with these creatures. To get to the park is just a 40 minutes’ drive, at the park, you are greeted and subdivided in to groups of 8 to track the various gorillas groups in the national park.
The groups are allocated to the different guides and the specific gorilla families each group will be tracking. You are also briefed about the trek and codes of conduct while in the forest especially keeping a reasonable distance from the mountain gorillas.
Volcanoes National park is a home to 10 groups / families of mountain gorillas and each family group is restricted to only 8tourists per day. The groups are allocated/ given to tourists in regard to one’s physical status and preference since some prefer tracking gorillas which are hard to trace while others would rather those that can be located within a short period of time like after a trail / search of 30 minutes. After group allocations, you are led to the thick forests with great views of other wildlife species like birds and different vegetation types as you look around for your gorillas group.
By the way, when coming for this trekking adventure, don’t forget to bring along Walking sticks, strong shoes or boots and long pants and long sleeved t-shirts are very essential for successful gorilla trekking expeditions. The long sleeved pants and t-shirts enables you to easily move through the thorny vegetation without being scratched or pierced and the shoes or boots makes it easy to cross from one muddy slope to another.
At your adventure, when about to meet the gorillas, your guide reminds of the mountain gorilla trekking regulations; most especially keeping a reasonable distance away from the gorillas, avoiding the use of flash photography when taking mountain gorilla photographs, avoiding making a lot of noise and keeping all kinds of snacks and food away from the gorillas.
Seeing and staying close to these creatures in their natural wilderness relaxing, can leave you so amazed. As you watch them feeding as the young ones play around while the sliver back keeps a close look as the head of the family with an important role of protecting the female and young mountain gorillas from any intrusion of their territory. But don’t forget it an hour allowed for visitors to stay with these creatures so as to impacts and disturbances of the mountain gorillas as well as reducing chances of disease spread and exposure of sickness to the highly endangered animals.
However lasts for only a while as it’s a fascinating feeling viewing these animals at a closer view that time runs out so fast and after which this you return to the park headquarters for your certificates of participation.
The Gorilla trekking permits can be obtained from the Rwanda Development Board offices in Kigali or from a trusted tour operator at only $750.